Of Fire and Raiders in the Night (2nd October 2013)
Hallan – Fighter
Johan - Cleric
Paulix – Thief
Vox Comwy – Magic User
An Uneventful Day - Moonday 1st Quattrober 963 (Day 6) – morning
The melodic chimes of the early morning bells juxtaposed the clatter of steel-clad hooves on the cobbled yard outside the Barley Mow Inn. The scent of freshly baked bread mingled with the damp muskiness of a few days’ rain as the patrol mounted their skittish steeds in readiness for their return to Darenth to report on their last few days’ encounters.
Hallan and Johan watched them through the windows of the tavern from their breakfast table whilst waiting for Vox to join them for breakfast. The temple bells had woken Vox and he hurriedly dressed and muttered some rushed goodbyes to the two priests and their servants who had nursed him through his brush with death. He scurried down the main street just as the patrol were about to ride out of the village. He quickly engaged the scribe in conversation, asking him what he thought about the previous nights’ goings on before getting to the point he wished to make. He asked how he could learn more of the magical arts and whether the scribe could help him, but the scribe politely replied that although he knew a few spells he could not help him with his studies, although Lord Richard’s vizier, Godefroi, was a more powerful conjurer than he, so might be able to teach him a few tricks. Vox thanked him for his time and headed towards the inn where he was greeted by his companions and given a share of the breakfast.
Hallan and Johan prepared a small meal from the remnants on the table for Paulix, who was still up at the woods by the bridge looking for signs of the large sheep rustler, and headed out the door with a knapsack in hand. They headed towards the woods in a roundabout way so as to throw off any obvious pursuit.
When they arrived, Paulix mentioned that he was tired from the zombie attack and overnight vigil but was bearing up. He was glad of the food that they brought him and said that he was going to sleep the rest of the day. The party left him to rest and keep vigil that night in his small shelter out of the rain.
Waiting for Action (afternoon)
Just after lunchtime, a small merchant caravan pulled into the tavern courtyard on its way towards Darenth. The party brought out the newly cleaned leather armour (which they had paid the serving girl for earlier that morning) and the weapons that they had managed to salvage from their fight with the bandits the day before and presented them to the lead merchant. He inspected the merchandise and was able to give them around half their value; he knew he could easily sell them to Sir Richard in Darenth or further down the line at Staneford or Castleford which also both had standing militias.
The party were pleased to have made some serious money and put it aside in readiness for purchasing some better equipment at a later date. Hallan returned to his patrol of the village whilst Johan returned to the church to carry on reading the books and scrolls housed there. Vox milled around making a mischief of himself, especially when he woke Paulix as he paid him a visit for a chat. His natural curiosity then led him to look at how the wooden bridge and jetty were built.
Being woken by Vox had annoyed Paulix but it actually turned out to be to the party’s advantage as Paulix was able to spot a lot of activity going on over at Simeon’s farmstead. He couldn’t really tell what they were doing but they were very busy.
The bells for six o’clock chimed out and the farmers began to return to the village from their fields; many to the tavern for a well-earned drink and bite to eat. Hallan, Johan and Vox decided that this would now be the best time to carry on with their patrols of the village. They paid a visit on the two farmsteads which had been having their livestock and crops ravaged and told them that they would be patrolling the vicinity over night to try to see if they could work out what was causing the mayhem just after every new moon. Then they returned to the Barley Mow for their evening meal.
Creeping Death (after dark)
About two hours after the six o’clock bells had struck, and darkness had fallen, the village was lit up as usual by the torches around the main buildings and the glow of hearth and candlelight escaping through the chinks between the bolted window shutters and doors. Paulix could just about make out some basic shapes of the buildings in the village from his vantage point but something was not quite right. The glow that was usually to be seen around Simeon’s holdings was not present; the farmstead was in pitch blackness.
The rest of the party chose this time to resume their patrols for the night and headed out of the inn to pick up on any news Paulix might have. As they crossed the fields towards Paulix’s vantage point a cacophony of yells and screams went up from the farm that had been raided by zombies the night before. This caused the party to veer off from their path to Paulix and head towards the noise. Paulix also left his vantage point to investigate.
Upon arrival at the farm they noticed that the two farmers and their family were looking worriedly at what was in the sty. The party glanced into the sty to see that the pigs had all turned to greyish ooze, resembling a sort of lichen-topped blob of matter that pulsed and moved very slowly. It was certainly alive and looked in danger of spreading.
Paulix and Hallan grabbed a few sticks and poked it a little before hooking some of the substance and looked at it more closely. The wind was low, and the rain was still falling, so they risked burning it. It sizzled and burned quite rapidly despite the rain, and only gave off a minimal amount of smoke as it curled up and blackened. The farmers took up on this and rapidly burnt the rest of the oozes.
The shouts had drawn attention from the village and a few doors had begun to open, so Paulix quickly made his way back towards Simeon’s farm – the fact it was dark meant that this was most likely his best opportunity to investigate the farmstead of their enemy.
Arson (late evening)
Paulix reached the outer wall of Simeon’s farmstead and motioned for his colleagues to be silent whilst he slipped over the wall and into the deeper shadows. The rest of the party hunkered down to await his return. The thief slipped into the yard without a sound and took stock of the surroundings; there were four major buildings and a few smaller out houses. He quickly headed over to the two larger buildings which turned out to be stables (with livestock inside) and a grain barn (from the smell). He turned towards the larger of the two remaining structures and headed to a side window. He was able to jemmy open the shutters without a sound before he climbed into the inky blackness within.
He listened intently but heard no sound but the slow pop and crackle of a banked hearth. He closed the shutters behind him and returned to the fire to stoke it up a little more to produce a little more light with which to survey the room. It turned out to be a standard farm common room with a couple of comfortable chairs beside the fire, a large, solid central table with stools and benches around it for a dozen or so people, a side dresser with plates and crocks, and a staircase that led up to the smaller upper chamber.
Paulix paced across the room, listening as he went and proceeded to climb the stairs. He was not ready for the creaky stair board about half-way up the flight and stopped dead at the seemingly loud sound his footstep had produced. When he let out his pent up breath he realised that he had not disturbed anyone and it was likely that the building was empty. He rapidly climbed the rest of the stairs and found himself in a dark bed chamber. He fumbled around and found a candle to light to give him a better view of the chamber. He spotted several beds, trunks and a garderobe but no people. This gave him an opportunity for some personal gain, so he decided that he would search for something of value.
As he was searching the room, the three companions outside spotted four fire arrows arc out from the woods on the far side of the village and strike into the thatch of one of the large barns on Albus’s property. Hallan immediately sprang to his feet and urgently whispered to his two friends that he was going to head down to investigate and that they should join him as soon as Paulix returned from his foray into the farmstead.
Paulix finished his search of the room when he clasped a small pouch of coins. He swiftly pocketed them and set his candle to the bottom of a curtain before he made his way out of the cottage, only to catch sight of the conflagration that had caught the barn on the other side of the village. He vaulted over the wall to re-join his friends and they all sprinted down to the village.
On their way they saw labourers and farmers boil out of Albus’s farm; a few armed with naked swords flashing in the firelight headed into the woods where they thought the arrows may have come from.
The barn fire raised most of the village, and they came to the aid of Albus’s homestead; they formed a bucket-chain and soon got the fire under control. Just as the final few buckets were drawn from the nearby river, one of the villagers noticed that a fire had also blossomed on the other side of the hamlet. They all grabbed a couple of buckets of water each and headed over to Simeon’s farm to help them with their fire.
When they arrived though, a handful of Simeon’s labourers said that they had it under control and that they would require no help at this time. The majority of the villagers returned to their homes, but every door had a member of the family sat outside for a while keeping watch just in case there was a return of the fire starters.
Paulix and the party hung around a little after the rest of the villagers had returned to their homes and enquired as to what had happened. One of Simeon’s labourers answered him briefly that a candle had caught and that there was nothing to worry about it as all was now under control.
The adventurers returned to the inn to sleep, whilst Paulix returned to his vantage point in the woods close to the bridge.
Night Mara - Tirsday 2nd Quattrober 963 (Day 7)
The bells for the sixth hour peeled out from the small chapel at the end of the village’s main street, waking the adventurers from their short slumber. Hallan, Johan and Vox grabbed a swift breakfast and bagged some of it up to take to Paulix in his hide-out.
Hallan took the food to his companion through the downpour that was still affecting the river valley whilst Johan convinced Vox that there were some interesting documents that he may wish to look at. Vox and Johan knocked on the door to the chapel and were greeted by one of the taciturn priests who agreed to their requests. He ushered them into the library and after his shaken collection box rattled to the sound of a few more coppers he left them with the warning that the room was glyph warded and nothing could be taken from the room without their being warned.
Vox felt a bit nervous about the warning but he managed to read the few items that Johan pointed out to him. They were written in a script that Johan did not understand, but Vox recognised the script easily. He learned that any who wished to cast arcane magicks needed to have all of their movements unimpeded by thick clothing or armour, and that large metal objects like weaponry would interfere with the flow of magical power. Vox immediately attempted one of his cantrips but it failed. He then removed the leather armour that he had donned a few days ago and tried again; this time with more success. There was something to these clerical books after all. He read a little further and came across a conjuring spell within one of the tomes. He looked around to see that he was unobserved and copied the incantation into his small spell book for study at a later date. They then gave their thanks to the head priest and returned to the tavern.
Meanwhile, from his vantage point, Paulix noticed that a cart pulled up to Simeon’s farm and several people got out. He couldn’t make out who from the distance he was away from the farm, but he now had his suspicions as to who had alibis ready for the night before.
Nothing of note happened throughout the rest of the day, so after the six o’clock bells had rung out and the farmers had returned to their homes, the party headed out to Paulix’s vantage point to help him keep watch.
The thin sliver of moon and stars cast a little light between the showers that still affected the village and they could just make out the bridge in the distance.
A few hours later, the party heard the distinct sound of something large moving through the river water. A large shape emerged from the river bank close to where they saw the large footprints previously. The party noticed that it was a vaguely woman-shaped being of about ten-twelve feet in height with long straggly hair. She was carrying what looked like a large empty sack and a huge meat cleaver.
The mara paused as she was about to step over the wall into farmer Ham’s property and began to sniff. The party cursed themselves when they realised that they were upwind, but the rain must have been dampening their scent as with one final sniff the mara carried on with her journey. She swiftly covered the ground towards the sheep huddling under a small tree, scooped a rock from out of her sack and launched it with unerring accuracy at one of the ewes. The ewe collapsed in a heap with a vague bleat and the mara leapt onto it and swiftly removed its head with her cleaver. She then stuffed the body and head into her sack and began to stalk towards farmer Bristow’s barley fields.
It was at this point that the party decided to intervene. They leapt from their hiding place to confront the creature. Hallan and Paulix let fly with their arrows and sling bullets striking her severely several times before she bellowed her rage and tried to make her escape. The only way back to the river was through the party, so she bulled her way towards them, swinging her cleaver.
Vox, who had been studying the notes he had made from the documents he had copied at the temple, attempted to cast the new spell he had learned and was surprised to see several flashes of energy leave his fingers and strike the mara without needing much aim. This angered her even more and made her swerve away from Vox’s magical attack directly into Hallan’s path. He braced himself for impact but was bowled straight over when her cleaver struck him as she raced by. Paulix managed to launch a few more missiles at the beast before she leapt into the river and disappeared from view. The farmer nervously poked his head out of his hovel as the mara made a great splash but was told that everything was alright now as they had forced the sheep rustler away with the loss of only one of his sheep.
Shaken from their encounter, the party gathered their wits and began to track the beast, but as none were rangers, they were unable to follow the trail more than a few hundred yards when the blood spots ran out.
They circumvented the marshlands and re-joined the riverside a little further downstream. They searched around but could not find any tracks, and likewise further downstream they knew they had definitely lost the trail. They retraced their path back towards the hamlet of High Beeches on the opposite bank and caught the spoor again. They noticed that the mara was headed westwards towards Darenth.
They carried on travelling throughout the rest of the night and most of the following day, avoided a small wolf pack that was on the hunt, and arrived at Darenth just as the early evening bells chimed out.
The Trail Goes Cold (Wodensday 3rd Quattrober 963 – Day 8)
The party knocked on the door of Jared, the village headman, and were cordially invited in for a meal after they informed him that they had some important news for Albus. The party were grateful for the warming soup and bread, and especially grateful to be out of the rain that had continued on and off all the previous night and that day. They told the family the story of what had happened over the last couple of nights. The arson attack was swept aside after they realised that no-one had been hurt and not too much damage had been done. They were intrigued by the story of the mara, as they said that that would explain why the dogs went crazy in the early hours of the day; especially if it was some kind of monster that had passed through part of the village.
Jared suggested that due to the enormity of the two stories the party should accompany him to see Sir Richard the following morning to explain it again and to see if they could request any aid in tracking down both the arsonists and the monster. He sent off one of his men to notify the lord of their arrival and request an audience the following morning.
The Trail Goes Cold (Thunorsday 4th Quattrober 963 – Day 9)
The following morning, the party woke at six bells and accompanied Jared to see the lord of the manor. They arrived at the gate to the enclosure and were again asked to wait about ten to fifteen minutes before they were shown into the presence of the knight and his entourage (he was again accompanied by his two hearth guards and vizier at the head table in the main hall).
They recounted their story (but omitted Paulix’s tale of theft and arson to make it seem like a double arson attack on the village as a whole) and waited whilst Sir Richard sat back and ingested it all. They gave him a few moments before they continued on and requested the use of a huntsman and some tracking dogs if he had such available. They made their case by stating that if the mara was now denied her new hunting grounds, she may begin by snatching livestock from Darenth, no matter how well guarded by soldiers.
Sir Richard rubbed his chin and proclaimed that he would indeed supply the party with a couple of tracker dogs, a huntsman and two crossbowmen to accompany them on this hunt, and that they should meet them at the mill in an hour. He then whispered a command to one of his henchmen before dourly turning away from the party; their interview was over and they were shown the door.
As the party left the hall, they noticed that a foot patrol was already being put together to go to High Beeches to investigate the arson attacks.
The adventurers returned Jared to his house, thanked him for his aid and gathered some provisions from the baker and tavern for a few days. They then made their way to the mill to await the arrival of the huntsman, his dogs and guards.